I am a member of several Facebook groups for web designers and developers which have helped me keep on top of news and updates in the world of WordPress. From time to time, folks sign on during a crisis (when a website unexpectedly goes down or a plugin or theme update goes awry).
Several weeks ago, I saw a post that read: “Grrr – Just found someone who’s copied my website word for word!!!!!”
It quickly became apparent that this British web designer was not the only one whose business site had been duplicated word for word. Another designer announced that he had “found 2 people copying (his) site using http://www.copyscape.com.
I clicked the link and to my surprise and dismay, I was soon looking at a website of a Chinese-Canadian web designer who had copy-and-pasted my bio, services page, FAQs, and several blog posts and posted it all as her own.
For example: here’s a screenshot of my bio:
And here is hers. The words highlighted in yellow are identical to my bio. I covered up her picture and words that would identify her:
I spent a lot of time on my website content and perhaps even more working on my site’s SEO, which has seen a slight drop lately (I’ll speak more to duplicate content penalties in a bit).
Before I contacted this individual, I wanted to understate exactly what I could do in light of this plagiarism.
What is the Digital Millennium Copyright Act?
The DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) is a U.S. Copyright Law that was ratified in 1998 and has heightened the penalties for internet copyright infringement, such as the duplication of published material on another website without permission. The Act narrows the liability to the party who has actually duplicated the content, rather than the website host. However, in some cases, deliberately linking to material that has been copied in violation of DMCA may also be deemed a violation.
Is My Material Copyrighted?
The short answer: Yes!
According to the US copyright office, which is a division of the Library of Congress (copyright.gov), your work is copyrighted and protected as soon as you create it in a tangible, recorded form. That means that you don’t have to go through a formal process of copyrighting your written material. However, you will have to undertake such a registration if you pursue a lawsuit in response to a copyright violation.
Copyright.gov provides specific instructions pertaining to websites. Website content is considered to be “work transmitted online.” Original authorship protects your “text, artwork, music, audiovisual material (including any sounds), and sound recording,” but does not protect “ideas, procedures, systems, or other methods of operation.”
You can officially register your online work for copyright by filling out a paper or online application through the US Copyright office.
How will duplicate information on another domain affect my website?
There is a lot of misinformation out there about duplicate content penalties.
Since 2011, Google has been penalizing websites for posting duplicate content. This means that if you post a guest blog post anywhere, you should link to it but not repost the content on your own site. In the scenario of another website duplicating your content, you will want them to remove it so that you are not penalized.
How can I respond?
Option 1– You can contact the owner and explain your knowledge of the situation and your ability to pursue legal action due to their violation of US Copyright Law.
Option 2– You can file a DMCA complaint with the hosting provider of the website that has duplicated your website. For example, Hostgator has an online form for complaints here.
Option 3– You can file a complaint with Google to penalize the website that has duplicated your website. Google’s inquiry form is here.
Option 4– You can hire a lawyer and file a lawsuit against the owner of the website which has duplicated your website.
How I handled it
After much careful contemplation and knowledge of what I could do to penalize the woman who copied my website content, I decided to write her an email explaining that I was aware of the duplicated content and asking why she copied it. I had this nagging thought that kept popping into my head– that perhaps she didn’t speak English very well and/or was unaware of basic copyright laws.
I received a REALLY nice, apologetic email the next day from the woman. She explained that English was not her native language and that she had asked her young daughter to help her create the content for her website. She had suggested that her daughter look at my content as inspiration but she copied, pasted, and never updated it.
I decided to ask if she would like my help editing a new bio for her. She took me up on it and I helped by revising the new bio, FAQs, and service copy that she created for her own website. I told her that if I had tried to write similar content in Chinese it wouldn’t have been nearly as good as hers! I hope that the new content will bring her some more business 🙂
I’m so thankful that I started by contacting her directly instead of filing a DCMA complaint with either her host or Google. She was quick to resolve the situation and I think many others would be as well. If they aren’t, then you can proceed to the other measures.
(If you haven’t checked to see if your content is duplicated elsewhere, I would take a moment to check at http://www.copyscape.com).
The moral of the story: Protect your online content– it is copyrighted under DMCA and it’s duplication will negatively affect your SEO. Also, it never hurts to assume the best. You might just make a new Canadian-Chinese friend!
If you missed our last post on How to do Keyword Research for SEO, please start there.
I took a little break from blogging when our newborn was born last month. Now I’m back and have a goal of blogging regularly (once every two weeks to start) and broadcasting my blog posts on social media using Hootsuite to schedule my posts.
Why would I make such a goal, especially with a newborn? For two reasons.
First of all, I’ve determined that it’s manageable and realistic for me to achieve this. I have already created a master document of content that simply needs to be adapted into individual blog posts. It shouldn’t take that much time to write and publish a new post each week (or to use a larger chunk of time to write multiple posts and then schedule their publication).
Second of all, it is helpful in achieving my business goals, since posting regularly on a blog with content that is optimized for SEO will increase traffic to your site and in many cases improve your Google search ranking.
What “newborns” or other huge commitments/responsibilities do you have that are keeping you from blogging? Isn’t it worth it to carve out the time or hire someone to write content for you?
Since you know that it’s important, let’s get to it. Here are some tips for optimizing your webpages and blog posts for SEO.
1. SEO Optimization starts with great, relevant content.
We hear it all the time but it’s always worth repeating– Quality content is so important for SEO. Start with great content and then optimize what you have written for your audience. While pages of quality content on your website are helpful, it is recommended that you also have a blog with periodically posted new material for Google to index.
Each blog post can be anywhere from 200 to 2,500 words in length. There seems to be some controversy about the ideal length of posts, but if it is longer you have more room to include more keywords and phrases for which your audience may be searching.
2. Be Intentional with Your Title and URL choice
Choose a title that is appealing, conveys the value of the content, and contains keywords related to your industry. Try to target different keywords in each post.
Tip: If you are using WordPress as your CMS (Content Management System), you can edit the URL so that it contains even more keywords than the post title itself. This can be especially helpful for Ecommerce sites when you are trying to optimize products, such as at a local ecommerce shop called LidLab in Driggs, Idaho.
For example, we were very strategic in using target keywords in our page titles for Stone Barn Holdings.
2. Include quality images and video within the pages and posts.
Google gives you many bonus points for including video on your pages and posts! When you insert your photos, make sure they are web optimized– meaning that they are saved at the correct size to display at a good resolution without slowing down your page load time.
Tip: You can also optimize your images for SEO by uploading them with an image title and alt text that each include keywords from your post.
Having a hard time finding photos to use? Try the free or cheap stock photo services I describe on my resource page or take screenshots of things on your own website to use as an example.
3. Use your H1 and H2 headers as you design and create your content.
Use H1 and H2 tags to break up your blog post into a list or into sections broken up by several headers. For example, on my pricing page, my larger sections are written in H1 and the subsections within the page are written in H2. H1 and H2 will look different on different websites as they are built to display at different sizes, colors, fonts, etc. Google indexes the words that you use in your H1 and H2 headers as keywords. Therefore, you will want to be sure to include variations of important keywords for your post in these headers.
Even though it is important to include keywords in your headers, make sure you avoid “keyword stuffing,” or the unnatural use of keywords in multiple forms. Keep it natural so that your readers enjoy your content and are more likely to share on social media and link to you from their own websites.
4. Include Internal and External Links
Make sure that you are linking to other relevant content that you have published on your blog previously or that is located elsewhere on your website. Google gives points for internal links in their algorithm and it keeps your visitor clicking and engaging in your site.
Including external links may be noticed by the bloggers that you link to, who may reciprocate. Either way, if you are linking to quality content then you are improving the value of your post.
5. Include Share Buttons and Promote on Social Media
By including share buttons underneath your post, such as the buttons we use which are provided by the Shareaholic WordPress plugin, you are making it easier for your visitors to share your content. Social media activity is noted by Google and also generates incredible traffic. Although it can be time consuming, Social Media promotion is an absolutely necessary step if you are serious about SEO. You can make it more feasible by using an automated service like Hootsuite, which I discuss in my post about my favorite resources.
Remember, it’s important to optimize as you go, but you can go back and optimize old blog posts that need some love. What are you waiting for? Get out there and get optimized!! Please leave any questions or comments below.
Keyword research should be the first step of any SEO Campaign and should be revisited regularly to assess changing keywords and new target markets for your website.
Taking these preparatory steps while you are developing your site will save you time along the way and ensure that you are creating a Google-friendly site from the beginning.
I have two primary tools that I like to recommend when you are kicking off your keyword research:
Two Helpful Tools for Keyword Research:
1. First, visit Google Keyword Trends (Free)
- Type in your obvious tey kerms (For example, mine is “web design”)
- Scroll down and view the Queries section to see what Google users are typing in. Make a list of Relevant Terms. You will target these relevant Queries on your website and in your blog pages.
- Click on related searches in the Topics section and add more relevant terms to your list.
2. Next, visit Google Adwords Keyword Planner (Free with an adwords account)
- Click on “Search for Keywords.” Search for new keyword and ad group ideas. Type in your product or service, url, and your product category (leave this blank if there isn’t a relevant category). Click on the “keywords” tab to see how often different keywords are searched in your region. Experiment with different regions by editing the region filter in the left-hand column.
- Add additional keywords you hope to target on the site to your list of keywords and refer to it throughout the design process.
Next we will discuss how to optimize your page with the relevant keywords that you choose to target, so check back for the next blog post in this series.
What tools do you use for conducting keyword research? Let me know in the comments!
SEO is by nature a game that changes almost everyday. This is part of the reason it has become such a personal passion of mine. I love learning about new tactics that work for specific situations and seeing the results. It is so rewarding to be able to send a report to a client outlining exactly how and why their site’s rank has improved.
Some things that I have implemented for SEO have worked and others haven’t. This can be concerning when everyone wants to be on the first page of Google for their target keywords. If it were easy to be there, everyone would be (and you can see the problem there). While page rank can skyrocket and plummet suddenly and the specific parameters change frequently, these three golden rules of SEO have weathered the storms of Google algorithm updates and will continue to do so:
1. Don’t put your eggs all in one basket.
Whether we are business owners or SEO consultants, we need to remember to diversify! If you have 1,000,000 high quality backlinks and terrible on-page optimization, Google will not be ranking you for your keywords. If you diligently post on your blog everyday and don’t promote your content on social media, you will not be building traffic. We must remember to balance our efforts and investments in multiple areas so that we can cover the basics in content development, social media exposure, on-page optimization, and off-page stats. For example, at a Nursing Home in Lebanon, PA, a combination of content marketing, on and off-site SEO efforts, as well as social media promotion have worked together to improve the site from a page 3 rank to a page 1 rank.
2. Know what works and keep detailed records.
One thing we can count on is the fact that effective tactics will change. That’s why it’s crucial to keep an up-to-date spreadsheet (see this post for instructions on how to do this) for each project outlining what steps you took and what impact they had. What industry hashtags are leading to more social media engagement this week? Which forums and directories resulted in follow links? How did your new site-map impact your page rank? Learn your lessons and keep high quality data so that you can carry your successes to your next project.
3. Find a timeline that works for your industry.
Depending on what your competitors are doing and the scope of your potential audience, you will have different SEO needs in terms of amount and frequency of work that is needed to help your website compete. Some local businesses really just need a month or two of more intense SEO work followed by biweekly or monthly checkups on page speed, spam score, sitemap errors, and other issues that may need to be resolved. I have seen my own website’s page rank score continue to climb with the application of bursts of SEO activity once every month or two, along with regular monitoring.
Do you think these principles are timeless? What would you add? Let us know in the comments.
I am not a blogger at heart… meaning that while I really enjoying writing, even for public consumption, the practice of consistently writing about a passion of mine and promoting it on social media is not generally appealing to me.
However, there are so many reasons why I should– and why YOU should– especially if you are a business owner.
1. Blogging Consistently Increases Traffic to Your Site
It is uncanny. Just use a web traffic tracker to look at the peaks in your traffic and notice how your busiest days are linked to new blog posts. This is great motivation!
2. Blogging Builds Your Business
Obviously the more people we have looking at our websites, the more potential clients are finding us. When we write high-quality posts that results in boosted traffic, we are probably also getting social media engagement and backlinks from other reputable sites, which leads to our next point…
3. Blogging Makes Google Love You More
There is absolutely no doubt about it. Blogging high quality content consistently is the best thing you can do for your SEO once your website is properly optimized and any on- or off-page issues or offenses are reconciled with Google. If you want to improve your Google Search Rank for your target keywords then it is time to put fingers to keyboard and write about something (hopefully your expertise!) regularly.
4. Blogging Forces You to Learn New Things, Refine What You Know, or Compile Information in Digestible Form for Your Potential Customers
Blogging is all about information– boiling it down, compiling it, improving it, sharing it. Some of the blog posts that I’ve written about SEO, Responsive Design, or other web design industry issues are a resource I now have to share with my potential customers when they ask me about particular topics. I can either use the information I previously compiled, edit it, and email it to them OR direct them to the source.
5. Blogging Leads to New Connections
Blogging regularly gives visitors an opportunity to return regularly, and therefore, to get involved in your business. Also, remember not just to visit your own blog’s comment sections but also to share the love on relevant blogs in your field. Not only does this get you some either follow or no-follow links but it also drives traffic to your site when people click on your comments (assuming your gravatar is set up properly and/or you are filling out your url when given the opportunity). Blogging is a great way to network and build connections!
What motivates you to blog when the days, weeks, or months have ticked by silently on your business’s blog? Is it worth it? Let me know what you think in the comments!
I have to say, while others may have been dreading it, I was secretly looking forward to “Mobilegeddon,” the cheerfully nicknamed Google Algorithm update that launched on April 21st. This update was termed as such by web developers and SEO gurus because of the importance assigned to mobile-friendly features and usability. It threatened to wreck the search rank of many local businesses that haven’t prioritized the development of a mobile-friendly site.
For more details on Mobilegeddon, see this Bloomberg Business video:
April 21st also happened to be the day that we closed on our new home, so I wasn’t too attached to the search engines that day : )
Thankfully, I knew that I didn’t need to be worrying on Mobilegeddon, because as a standard my websites are responsive, which means that they adapt seamlessly to different screen sizes.
As a whole, our websites were unaffected or positively impacted by the update (woohoo!). This is a relief for the business owners who could have been affected. Others have recently contacted me to ask about SEO packages. The truth is, it is just the industry standard to have a responsive website now.
If you are interested in learning more or transitioning to a responsive website, contact me today.